The Supreme Court decision has made it clear that they are restricted by poorly written legislation. This judgement is a clear call for the government to amend legislation via the Renters Reform Bill so that any landlord who receives rent from their property and has committed criminal acts can face legal action from tenants via a Rent Repayment Order.
If the law doesn’t change, it is not a case of if we will have another Awaab Ishak in the Private Rented Sector, or when we will have another Awaab, but how many and how often. If the government does not amend the legislation, those most affected by this cost-of-living crisis will pay the ultimate price for their struggle. They will pay with their lives and health through fires in death-trap properties and breathing problems from untreated damp and mould.
This decision creates a blueprint for property owners who want to maximise their profit, cram as many tenants as can fit into inhuman conditions and extract extra rent from desperate humans who need a place to call home. Unfortunately, two-thirds of councils lack the resources to prosecute a single landlord each year, and the only realistic protection available to tenants is applying for a Rent Repayment Order. With this Supreme Court ruling, rogue landlords can sidestep the law and tar the reputation of all landlords.
So what is the criminal blueprint? A landlord creates a company with no assets, rents their property to that company, and the company rents out each room. The tenant can only sue the company with no assets, which will not pay any court award, eating up the limited resources of the taxpayer-funded court system. The landlord can avoid putting in safety measures and ignore the law, knowing they have made an intelligent business decision, because there is almost no risk that anything will happen to them.
The question is whether the government will amend this broken legislation, which ironically was designed to prevent rogue landlords from running criminal business models, or leave tenants to suffer and die. If the law is not amended, we must remember this moment. We must remember it when families appear on the news to share memories of their children who died when studying at university in a property run by this arrangement. We must remember it when another story breaks about a child dying from breathing in toxic mould that no one fixed because no one cared. We must remember that there was an opportunity to change the law and protect the most vulnerable.
Housing campaigners everywhere call on the government to amend the law so that any landlords receiving rent from their criminal activities can be held liable for a Rent Repayment Order to break this inhumane, profitable business model.
The reality is clear. Many of the poorest in our society will die from fires and mould if the law isn’t changed. The question is – does anyone care?
Al Mcclenahan – Rent Repayment Order and Financial Penalty Training Lead, Justice For Tenants